Standard vacuum cleaners
We’ve tested standard vacuums to find out which are the best at carpet cleaning and pet-hair removal.
Learn how to choose the right vacuum for your household.
A standard vacuum is a large model that’s designed for a whole house clean. Usually they’re powered by a mains cable, sit on the floor and have wheels for manoeuvrability. They can be upright style models, or compact canister / barrel shaped models. Dust and debris are stored in a replaceable bag or a bin.
▲ Provide a good clean on all surface types.
▲ Many models come with features such as variable power, adjustable head height, swivel heads and HEPA filters*.
▲ Connect to the mains, so no limit on how long you can vacuum for, and suction power is consistent (as long as the bag or bin isn’t full!).
▲ Less expensive to purchase than equivalent cordless stick vacuums.
▲ Larger capacity for dust and debris compared to cordless stick vacuums.
▼ Bulky to store.
▼ Heavier than a cordless vacuum.
▼ More difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
▼ Reach limited to cord length.
Canister / barrel vacuums are much more popular than upright models (around 85% of out tested models are canister). They are easier to manoeuvre and use in small spaces such as on stairs. Sometimes the main body can get stuck behind objects when you are pulling it along though.
Upright vacuums require you to push the whole unit around when cleaning, which needs more effort than a canister model where the cleaning head is separate to the main body. They are easier to move from room to room however, as you don’t need to bend down like you do with a barrel vacuum.
Bins are more popular than bags, nearly 70% of our tested models have bins. The cheapest standard vacuums also tend to have bins instead of bags, but as you begin to pay more you have the option of either.
Bags are going to cost more in the long run with replacements, and they are not as environmentally friendly, as you are throwing a bag away every time you fill one. They are more hygienic though, as the dirt and debris and allergens are contained when disposing. Just make sure you have a replacement on hand or your vacuuming fun will end.
With a bin style vacuum it’s easier to see when the bin needs emptying, and if you accidentally vacuum up an important piece of that lego kit you are building, you will likely be able to see and rescue it. The downside is that bins can sometimes be a bit messy to empty, and the bin itself can get dirty and scratched over time.
These are the main head types that come with standard vacuum cleaners:
Carpet and hard-floor heads have a setting for both, using only suction to remove dust and debris.
Turbo heads still only use suction, but have a rotating brush powered by the suction to help remove more stubborn dirt. They are also better at removing pet hair, although longer hairs can get entwined around the brush. Read our article on how to get hair out of your vacuum cleaner.
Powered heads are similar to turbo heads in that they use a rotating brush, but the brush is powered by a motor in the head. This makes the head more effective at removing hair and more stubborn dirt. They aren’t always ideal for hard floors though as they can flick debris around, although many have a brush that can be lowered to combat this. If your home has a lot of hard flooring it may be worth considering buying a vacuum that has a dedicated hard floor head.
Hard floor tools are surprisingly just for hard floors to avoid flicking or just pushing debris around.
Crevice tool - a long pointy nozzle used to suck up debris in tight corners or down the sides of furniture.
Upholstery tool - a wider tool that is used to remove dust from upholstered furniture.
Dusting brush – this attachment has long bristles that help to remove dust from furniture, lampshades, blinds etc, and it won’t scratch surfaces.
HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air”. A HEPA filter can remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mould, bacteria and airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (0.003mm). Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are a good choice for those that suffer from asthma or have other allergies.
Reach – this is the length of the cord supplied, so restricts how far from a power socket you can vacuum. This will be important if you have large rooms.
Variable Power – useful if you have thicker carpets that need more suction power at times, but you want to save energy and reduce noise when vacuuming other areas which don’t require as much suction.
We've tested 53 vacuum cleaners.
Find the right one for you.